PSS Winter '13

PULTENEY STREET SURVEY - WINTER 2013

Marketing Stars

by Chris Swingle

Heather Crosby Mnuchin ’89

FIRST JOB: Assistant, Bobby Zarem Inc.

CURRENT JOB: Yoga Teacher, Mother and Philanthropist

“You want this job? When can you start?”

Heather Crosby Mnuchin ’89 could start the next day. And she did, working for Bobby Zarem, iconic publicist to the stars who was “always looking for new people.” The reason he was always looking, she soon discovered, is that Zarem cursed and screamed at employees.

Mnuchin, who’d previously held summer jobs in advertising, found herself working for $21,000 a year as an assistant to an account executive who quit about five days later. Mnuchin stayed for one year – “a lifetime in Zarem years.”

She and Jason Weinberg, who became a well-known talent manager, created campaigns to attract press and make performers famous. They sent photos to the Daily News with doughnuts and coffee. They set up dates between their clients, such as a Broadway actress and a New York Ranger. They created a “Best Upcoming Star on Broadway” award, presented by Sophia Loren, another client.

Every morning, Zarem led a staff meeting in a muscle shirt, pedaling an exercise bike, “spinning like mad, sweating like a pig,” says Mnuchin. Her desk was in the middle of a chaotic room, where she wrote and rewrote press releases on a typewriter. “You learn fast because you’re in the trenches,” she says.

She lived with her mom, brought her lunch to work and cried – as her colleagues did – when their boss chewed them out. “We learned how to work,” Mnuchin says. “You didn’t go home until you were done.”

She also learned to take care of clients and to respect veterans in the field. At Carly Simon’s art gallery opening, Mnuchin met Gene Platin, who’d just gotten licensing to open Sesame Street stores. “Hire me,” suggested Mnuchin, who knew the work would be based in San Francisco, where she was about to move. Platin hired her to oversee publicity and marketing.

Her next position was doing publicity and marketing for Planet Hollywood. Planning and overseeing grand openings of the theme restaurants took her around the world. She also had to solve the crises that popped up, such as the time someone at a crowded opening in Moscow fell off a roof while trying to get a good view.

Mnuchin, who lives in Los Angeles, majored in art history and minored in religious studies at HWS. She hasn’t used those fields in her work, but says her liberal arts education helped her learn how to figure things out quickly and calmly.

When movie stars were photographed being arrested, she’d offer other photos so the press wouldn’t use the damaging ones. When a celebrity arrived in Amsterdam by private plane for a Planet Hollywood opening and forgot his passport, Mnuchin arranged to have the document faxed and provided officials with VIP passes to smooth the border snafu.

In 1998, Mnuchin moved to Launch Media, which was sold and became Yahoo Music. She “retired” as senior vice president of corporate communications in 2001 to raise her family. She and husband Steven Mnuchin, chair and CEO of OneWest Bank Group, have eight-year-old twins and a 10 year old.

Career-wise, she’s most proud of her work at Planet Hollywood, which she says tested her the most and where she believes she met the challenge. But it all developed from that first job, working for a man who she first met while he was holding a phone to each ear, “yelling at Al Pacino on one line and yelling at Kevin Costner on the other.”

 

Preparing Students to Lead Lives of Consequence.